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08 Oct 2022

Civil Engineering Secrets of The Chola Dynasty

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Skill-Lync

Civil Engineering Secrets of The Chola Dynasty

 

Ever so often, there comes a movie that leaves a discernible mark in the collective memory. Ponniyin Selvan is one of those movies. A film adaptation of one of the greatest novels in modern Tamil literature, Ponniyin Sevlan has galvanized the nation to look deep into its storied past. 

 

The visual experience of the movie pays homage to the architectural magnificence of the Chola dynasty. The monumental feats of engineering undertaken by the Cholas continue to inspire awe even after several centuries.. From the majestic Thanjavur temple  that pierces the skies to the robust dams on the Kaveri that still help irrigate vast swaths of land, the genius of Chola’s engineering techniques defied human imagination. 

 

Famous Chola Architectural Marvels

Below are some of the famous architectural marvels from the Chola empire:

 

Kallanai Dam

 

Kallanai Dam civil



The Kaveri is the lifeline of the Cholanadu. The Kaveri delta, fed by the river Kaveri and her tributaries, drains an area of 81,000 square kilometers. This land area is 2.7% of the total geographical area of India. 

 

This mighty perennial river would routinely flood during the monsoon and breach its banks, destroying lives and livestock and laying waste on agricultural lands. 

 

Eighteen centuries ago, the Chola emperor required alternative solutions to divert the flow of the river water. The Kallanai dam built across the Kaveri was the brainchild of the engineers under the reign of the Chola Emperor Adhitya Karikalan. 

 

The Kallanai Dam was constructed by embedding large rocks deep into the sandy soil of the riverbed. The medieval engineers constructed a dam that was 329m long with a width of 20m and a height of 5.4meters. This medieval structure supported the people of Southern Tamil Nadu long after the tales of the last Chola emperor had become folklore. 

 

Soon the country became the administrative responsibility of the British Raj, and it was a military engineer with the provincial government, Captain Caldwell, who increased the dam's height and repurposed it for use in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

 

Brigadeeshwara Temple 

 

Brigadeeshwara Temple



The large temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva at Thanjavur is the crown jewel of Chola architecture. The temple structure sits on a large artificial mound. It has an east-facing design and runs east-west for 240.79 meters (790.0 feet). The engineers completed the rectangle design of the temple by constructing 121.92 meters in a north-south direction.

 

At the center of the temple complex is the sanctum, the presiding deity - Lord Shiva. Above the sanctum is a central tower that rises to 208 feet or 16-storeys. This tapering engineering marvel would have been one of the tallest buildings in the world after its completion. As a mark of sheer ingenuity, the Chola engineers hauled an 80-ton boulder of granite up to the roof of the temple to cap this project.

 

The granite used in the temple construction was mined from quarries far away from the construction site. The engineers and architects leveraged the proximity of the Kaveri river to transport the raw materials for the construction of this temple. The medieval Chola employed elephants, sledges, and rollers to move the stones. 

 

The grand Chola engineers constructed a kilometer-long ramp with a gradual incline to lift the large boulder to the top of the vimana (a pyramidal tower over the sanctum). This monumental undertaking only took six years to complete. 

 

A few years later, Rajaraja Chola's son built an entirely new temple structure in the new city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, employing the experience and expertise developed at Thanjavur. 

 

Learning From the Past for A Better Future in Engineering

 

Ponniyin Selvan has increased the awareness about our history and the path Indian engineering has traveled over the ages. History is often a cyclical process and does tend to repeat itself. Only by learning from the past can we prepare for the future. 

 

While the layperson observes the creations of the Cholas, who were once the suzerains of Southern India, as tourist attractions, engineers like you should look at history from an analytical perspective. How did the medieval Chola align their grand temples in a straight line? How did they manage to build grand structures without the use of cement? 

Or, how did they manage to build a monument that has withstood countless invasions and natural disasters in just six years?

 

Aspiring engineers or seasoned professionals  should use the modern tools and techniques to bring unknown facets of these construction designs to life. You should possess expertise in industry-oriented software applications to analyze past secrets. You can only translate your knowledge of modern engineering to deconstruct ancient and medieval structures if you understand the fundamentals.

 

Skill-Lync's Postgraduate Programs in engineering help you develop critical industry-relevant skills. A team of technical engineers supports our mentor-led programs. Students at Skill-Lync work on industry-relevant projects.

 

These projects are simulations of real-world problems allowing students to gain expertise without the experience. To further our vision of continuous learning, students can resolve their queries with the help of our on-demand service.

 

Reach out to our career counselor today to know how you can be a part of the grand lineage of Indian engineers that spans over 1800 years.  


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Anup KumarH S


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